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Integrating Chickens, Step By Step

Chickens have a natural pecking order that, once established, can wreak havoc once a new hen or roo is introduced. That's why when you bring your...
  1. Arin's Backyard
    Chickens have a natural pecking order that, once established, can wreak havoc once a new hen or roo is introduced. That's why when you bring your new bird(s) home, you need to take extra care during the integration process to make sure everything goes smoothly. I've done this twice and made my own method by compiling methods from a variety of sources that I hope can be useful! :) Keep in mind that, if possible, you should introduce more than one bird at a time so one is not targeted. This goes especially for bantams because they are so much smaller. Until step five, give your newbies different sleeping quarters than the main flock. This will cause a lot of stress to you and both sides of the flocks, and this will take patience!
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    1. Put the newbie(s) in a cage where the flock can "see", but not "touch".
    The first step during the integration process is to get some sort of cage for your newbies to be exposed to the flock but secured safely behind the bars if one of the more dominant birds decides to get rough. Make sure you provide them with food and water. I also like to make a "safe corner" where the newbie(s) can huddle so they have somewhere to run. Although any new hens will probably be too stressed to lay at this point, it doesn't hurt to add bedding too.
    You'll know when this step is done because soon your main flock will lose interest and will ignore the newbies. You've completed the first step!

    2. Introducing the newbies
    Next, I like to place the newbies in a separate run and put in one or two of my more docile birds. Keep in mind there will be pecking no matter what, as that's how the pecking order works. Always supervise this step; because this is their first time meeting without a wall in between them, you never know what might happen. Keep doing this until, like the first step, the newbies and the docile birds don't mind each other and go on their chicken-y business without much bugging each other.

    3. Getting to know the meaner birds
    When you've gotten to this step, but in the newbies with either the same group as before plus a few (it really depends on how big the flock is) or put them with the rest of the flock. I have a flock of five and threw in my one newbie with two docile birds and then automatically with the rest of the flock once they settled. Supervise this too; more dominant birds will feel threatened and try to show the newbies who's boss. This is normal unless you see blood. If you see blood during any of these steps, go back to the last step. Eventually, the newbies will be slowly accepted into the flock.

    4. Being with each other full time
    Once you're confident that your birds are nearly integrated, put them with your flock as you normally do. Just make sure you have the option to check on them every now and then. I free-range mine in my backyard and when I do this I like to keep windows open on that side of the house so I can hear any squawking.

    5.Into the coop
    Soon you'll be able to put the newbies in the coop, congratulations! If they don't go into the main coop on their own, put them on the roost but on the opposite side of the roost to main flock. Do this when it's already getting dark and your birds are getting ready to sleep so they don't have energy to peck.
    The thing about this, though, is that you'll have to get up early to let them out in case the newbies get trapped an enclosed area. Depending on the time of year, 5:45-6:00 should be good; the key is to go as it's getting brighter but not the crack of dawn. Over time, you can make this alarm later and eventually put in the birds earlier and earlier.

    Happy integrating!
    ~ Arin's Backyard

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  1. DarLynn Chickens
    I really like your article. We started our flock with two, about 1 year or so, Rhode Islands about two weeks ago. Then on Sunday the place we got them from gave us two White Leghorns. All four of these birds had already been living together. Now that they are back together its mayhem. So I saw your post and immediately separated them. The first night we had them in a large dog carrier, which we did not put in the coop. The next day I let the Reds free-range the yard while I kept the Whites in the run. At the end of the day I added a divider in the run and had both sets in but separated. At dusk the Reds went in to the coop and roosted up for the night. Shortly after that the Whites flew over the divider and made their way into the coop. After a little pushing and shoving and "name-calling" they all settled down and went to sleep. This morning they all woke up and all seemed well. And for the most part they all played good. We even got an egg from one of the new hens. Then this evening all heck broke loose and the Reds pinned down one of the Whites in the coop and pecked at her until her comb was bleeding a little. We broke it up and separated them by closing the pop door locking the reds in the coop and leaving the Whites in the run. We had not planned on this and are not really prepared. So I made a make shift roost and nesting boxes in the run for the night.
    So we are wondering how long can we expect each of the steps to take? I feel as though I might have rushed them a little. So I was thinking of starting over at step one but, again how long should this process take. And do you have any other advice based on my chaotic few days. Also, do you know of any instances in which the integration just doesn't work?
    1. Arin's Backyard
      The duration of integrating chickens really depends on what breed or personality your chicken has. RIRs are known for being rather aggressive and mine were probably my biggest drawback when doing this. I'd say it took me a little under a month which sounds a little crazy but some steps may take longer than another. I personally haven't "failed" my integration attempt, but I wouldn't doubt the possibility. I'm glad my article was useful and I hope that helps :)
  2. AWC
    I may have to get rid of my bantam chickens, a hen and a rooster. Will the rooster and the hen be OK with a flock of regular chickens?
    1. Arin's Backyard
      I don't have a rooster, but I have a hen that is quite aggressive. I've integrated a bantam into my flock and as time has gone on you'd never know she was once part of a different flock! It might take some patience and it depends on your rooster's temperament, but I bet you can make it work. :)
  3. Whittni
    Very good job!
    1. Arin's Backyard

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